Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Lee Pace
Running Time: 144 mins
The time has come for Middle Earth to make it’s last impact on it’s formidable audience and for the world of JRR Tolkien and Peter Jackson to end in the final installment of The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies. What one would expect from Jackson’s third film in Bilbo Baggins’ story is precisely what one finds – an amazing mix of both mythical wonderment, comedic familiarity, impeccable battle scenes and that heavy weight of emotional turmoil.
The Battle of The Five Armies picks up where The Desolation of Smaug finishes, with the dastardly Smaug crumbling Laketown with his fiery breath, taking no prisoners in his mission to destroy. Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans), having escaped his imprisonment, sets off to destroy the frightening beast and, with the help of his son, take Smaug down in an impressive and entertaining finish.
Being at the very beginning of the narrative, Smaug’s death seems slightly rushed and perhaps would have been more appreciated at the end of The Desolation of Smaug. While destroying Desolation’s cliff-hanger ending, it would perhaps had enabled audience’s chance of truly appreciating Smaug’s ending. However, with Evans playing the wonderful Bard as perfectly as he does, Smaug receives his fate in a way that most audience will be pleased with.
While Laketown burns to the ground and the surviving community comes to terms with their hanging fate, Thorin (Richard Armatage) has fallen ill with what is affectionately known as ‘dragon sickness’, a consuming disease of greed and madness, that ensures Thorin begins to lose his kind halo of loyalty, bravery and kinship. This is done so brilliantly by Armatage, as audiences truly feel conflicted as Thorin begins to turn on his faithful army of fellow Dwarfs.
While Thorin battles with his sanity, audiences are able to see a tremendous plot line involving Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Galadriel (Cate Blanchet), Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving). Blanchet, Lee and Weaving head to Gandalf’s aid in rising against Sauron and his ghostly soldiers. This is a visually pleasing array of Wizard/Elf magic, which tiptoes on the edge of being technically brilliant and down right stone cold awesome. While the bulk of the narrative resides elsewhere, this is a fabulous distraction from the brewing drama between the five armies. Cate Blanchet is particularly amazing in these scenes, making for the most admirable female character.
The majority of both the second and third act of The Battle of The Five Armies, is basically one long fight, just as one would expect. It is also, as one would expect, done with absolute expertise. The battle scene, which runs for 45 minutes, is a violent affair of gargantuan size with the blood of Orcs, Men and Elves painting the screen as many meet their sudden death. The sheer scale of the battle that resides just beyond the mountain of Erebor is visually incredible, the level of skills, patience and commitment to making The Battle of The Five Armies as aesthetically pleasing as it is, is a testament to filmmaking in general. Jackson truly does return to his Lord of The Rings roots as audiences will feel the exact same excitement felt while watching the battle scene in Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers.
Despite audiences being engulfed in the battlement, our favourite Hobbit still remains present, reminding us once again, there’s not much a little Hobbit can’t do. Despite Bilbo (Martin Freeman) being our title character, this final installment is very much Thorin’s story and Bilbo often feels a little lot. This can be frustrating to audiences as they’re so used to Bilbo taking center stage and it can feel like he’s almost a little forgotten. Despite this being so, Freeman gives a completely compelling performance, truly tugging on audiences heart strings and ensuring there is enough light comic relief to stop audiences feeling as if they may meet their fate at the hands of a hideous Orc at any time.
While Jackson also tried to use other characters like Kili (Aiden Turner) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) to distract from the violence, this falls flat and audience’s are left feeling the sweet relief of Freeman’s genius comedic timing and general warmth. Turner and Lilly do well with what they’re provided with, but the general feel of their relationship feels completely forced and stiff, despite their attempts at adding a sweet plot line to an otherwise harsh narrative.
The levels of excitement audiences feel are met equally with waves of sadness, hopelessness and despair as our favourite characters face the harsh reality of war and viewers must accept that The Hobbit trilogy is coming to an end – a fact that rounds off well at the end, with an elliptical effect ensuring audiences are at peace with The Hobbit’s connection to Lord of The Rings. Despite some characters feeling lost within a narrative of battle and violence, The Battle of The Five Armies is an entertaining and emotional ending to a brilliant trilogy and Jackson’s relationship with Tolkin’s enchanting world.